Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lawyers In Love--With Terrorists?

We've wondered over and over why with all the worthy and less worthy pro bono causes out there, why would certain lawyers, especially in high-profile firms, decide to represent enemy combatants? Former terrorism prosecutor Andrew McCarthy expounds on the strange priorities of the "Gitmo Bar":
Lawyers presume that they have an elite status in our litigious society and that their superior knowledge of the law will intimidate critics into silence. Since they are trained advocates, they figure that if they feign enough indignation over somebody’s “questioning their patriotism,” then Americans will shrink from asking, “How is it patriotic to go out of your way to help America’s enemies in wartime?”
...The legal profession’s depiction of these lawyers as heroic servants not of the enemy but of the Constitution is unmitigated nonsense: You can’t be performing a vital constitutional function when the function is not required by the Constitution. They can repeat the lie a million times, but that won’t make it a fact. These lawyers made a conscious decision to contribute their services, usually gratis, to enemy combatants with whom the American people are at war...
The Gitmo detainees, prisoners of war, are not like indigent defendants prosecuted in the criminal-justice system. The Constitution guarantees counsel to people accused of ordinary crimes. The lawyers who represent such defendants do fulfill a necessary constitutional function. The criminal-justice system, which undergirds the rule of law on which our society depends, could not function without them.
That’s not the case with the volunteer Gitmo Bar. If that enterprise were dissolved tomorrow, the rule of law would not be compromised in any way. Prisoners of war could still file habeas corpus petitions — they’d just have to do it themselves, like American prisoners do. If a military judge thought a particular legal claim was potentially meritorious but complex, the judge could appoint a military lawyer to help the detainee — just as the federal district courts, at their discretion, can appoint counsel in unusual cases to represent habeas claimants. And if detainees were charged with war crimes, they would be more than adequately represented by the military defense lawyers. The system would get along just fine — indeed, it would get along just as it was designed to get along. Sure, we’d no longer have hundreds of volunteer litigators making the military’s job far more difficult as it tried to fight the war we rely on it to fight. That would be bad for al-Qaeda, but it would be good for us...
Here’s the landscape: The Obama Justice Department is staffed with many lawyers who volunteered their services to America’s enemies. Since those lawyers have been running the department, there has been a detectable shift in favor of due-process rights for terrorists, a bias in favor of civilian trials in which terrorists are vested with all the rights of American citizens, a bias against military tribunals, the extension of Miranda protections to enemy combatants, a concerted effort to publish previously classified information detailing interrogation methods and depicting the alleged abuse of detainees, efforts to subject lawyers who authorized aggressive counterterrorism policies to professional sanction, the reopening of investigations against CIA interrogators even though those cases were previously closed by apolitical law-enforcement professionals, and the continued accusation that officials responsible for designing and carrying out the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies committed war crimes.